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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer Reads: A New Favorite, A Bachelor Vixen, AIDS in the 80's, and A Sweet Romance

It is almost fall, so it seemed like a good time to review my summer reads.  There are four definite winners below.   I try to make these as un-spoilery as possible, so you can still enjoy the twists and turns of each book.  I think there is a little something for everyone here.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars:  I had to start off with this book, because it is now one of my all time favorites.  It is a quick read, with a twist that makes your head spin.  I actually had to listen to this book again once I was finished (and I can't believe everything I missed the first time around).

Cadence Sinclair Easton has been vacationing with her family on her grandparent's private island since she was born.  Her cousins are her best friends, and she looks forward to spending time with them every year.  She has a mysterious accident when she is fiftteen that she simply cannot remember the details of.  Cadence now suffers from debilitating migraines and takes strong pain killers which seem to leave her head in a bit of a fog.  So when she finally returns to the island during her 17th summer, she has more questions for her family than she has answers.  She slowly starts to piece together what happened, and face the truth that all actions have consequences.

I can't say anymore without giving anything away, but I would give this book five stars.  It took me a while to let go of these characters after reading and rereading.  I was haunted by everything that I didn't see the first time around (and you will be too).

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home:  It is 1987, and we are still trying to grasp the mysterious illness that is the AIDS epidemic. Teenager June Elbus loves her Uncle Finn, and he seems to be the only person in her life who can understand her.  However, she is losing her uncle to this disease, and it is like her best friend is being ripped from her.  She thought she was the closest person in the world to him, but after he dies, she realizes there was so much she didn't know.

Finn had another life that was kept a secret by her mother, in order to protect her.  Toby was Finn's partner, and perhaps the only person that loved him as much as June did.  She is reluctant to meet with him, but soon realizes that they have a few things in common, including Finn's dying wish that they take care of each other.

This was a heavy book.  I read it immediately after I finished We Were Liars (I mentioned I had a hard time letting go of that book), so it took me a while to warm up to the characters.  Once I did, I found it to be a well written story about the complications of family relationships.  Overall I give it 31/2 out of five stars.

Eleanor and Park:  This book was a sweet love story between two teenagers from the the same neighborhood, living in very different wolrds.  Eleanor has a very difficult home life, where she has to make herself almost invisible to survive.  Park comes from a loving and encouraging family.  They meet for the first time on the school bus, where Park reluctantly offers Eleanor a seat next to him.  They slowly develop a friendship, which turns into more.

 However, the turmoil Eleanor faces at home makes it necessary for her to keep the relationship and new-found happiness a secret.  She gradually opens up to Park, and lets him understand the harsh truths about her life.  It all leads up to the one night where Eleanor has to make a decision about her future, and what place Park will have in it.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends:  I love Courtney Robertson!  I want to state that at the beginning of this review, because I realize she was a controversial contestant on season 16 of The Bachelor.  In fact, Courtney was a lot of the reason that I continued to watch this season.  She was beautiful and feisty, and did a few things that definitely didn't endear her to the other women competing for Ben Flajnik's heart.  She made for great tv.  I always wanted to see what she was going to do next.  At the end of the day she won (I know, I know, it is supposed to be about love, not winning).

However, winning The Bachelor's heart was not quite the fairy tale ending that Courtney had in mind.   This book is her autobiography, and it doesn't skimp on  juicy details.  Aside form Ben, she kisses and tells about several other men, many of them celebrities.  If you watched Ben's season, you really get a different look at what when on behind the scenes, and after the cameras went away.  This was a really quick and fun read.  Five stars all the way.  It might even make you change your mind about Courtney.

One very last note here is that I posted about my love for her book on Instagram, and Courtney responded.  It was a very exciting morning for moi!!!

See my Books page to keep up with the books I am currently reading.  

Check out my books on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31653089-erin

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Not Blogging Is Getting Ridiculous

It isn't that I am not blogging because I have lots of better things to do.  Unless "better things" include lots and lots of jobstuff, then that is exactly what I have been up to.  I have been traveling for work more than I usually do, which is giving me some fun adventures.  However, I have not had a lot of downtime.  I keep telling myself I need to get back on the horse, and there is no time like the present, right?

I am currently in Arizona during monsoon season.  I was not aware of this fact before I arrived, but was not-so-pleasantly notified with emergency alerts going off on my cell phones starting at 6:30 this morning.  It was not a pleasant way to wake up.  If you are in the area with the flooding, I hope you are staying safe and dry.

The calm before the storm.

My surroundings are absolutely stunning.  

Arizona, you do sunsets and hot weather so well!

Rabbits are everywhere and very well camouflaged.

Here is another picture of the amazing sunset.  At some point in the evening, I may have become the weird girl taking pictures of the sky and chasing bunnies around.  

Finally, I picked up this book for a little light reading.  It looked like fun.  (It is quite possible that my job has completely warped my sense of fun.)

The hour is late, and I must go to bed.  I hope you all are doing well and having a fantastic summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks

It is once again time for my favorite summer sale, the Nordstrom Anniversary sale.  It officially starts tomorrow, but cardholders got to do a little pre-shopping this past week  My local Nordie's had sheer white curtains set up in every department, blocking off the newly reduced items from the rest of the stuff in the store.  It was a nice touch, because it made it really easy to take a peek specifically at the things I have been interested in on the website. 

I have already picked up the Kendra Scott "Elle" earrings in blush and the Zella "Move It" capris (and recommend both), but I am thinking of coming back for more.  Top of my list are the PJ Salvage lounge pants and Michael Kors Mid-Calf boots.  The Emi-Jay hair ties, at $5 with free shipping, are also a complete steal. 

Are you going to be shopping this sale?  Anything catch your eye?

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Wants 2014

See my previous sale picks: 2011, 2012, 2013

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Influenster Spring Fling VoxBox

I received the complimentary Spring Fling VoxBox from Influenster to review, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the products I received with you.   This is the fourth box that they have sent to me, and I always enjoy testing everything out.  Please note that although I did received this package for review purposes, all of the opinions expressed here are my own.  

First up is this this 5 in 1 lip Care Cube from Softlips.  I am a sucker for any kind of lip balm, so I was very excited to try this out.  I really like the compact cube design, which was easy to throw into my purse.  The shape of the balm itself reminded me a lot of the EOS lip balms, and was very easy to apply.  There was also a very soft pomegranate blueberry flavor to it, which was subtle enough to not make you want to lick it off of your lips upon application.  I would absolutely buy this product in stores, and I am dying to try out the other flavors.

Softlips Cube  $3.49
I have a confession to make.  I am not a big fan of drugstore mascaras.  I find that they usually make my eyelashes clumpy.  However, not being one to pass up a freebie, I decided to give this one a chance, and I really liked it.  If you are looking for a volumizing mascara at a very reasonable price point, Rimmel's Scandaleyes Retro Glam mascara is your hidden gem.  I would also purchase this in the future.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam Mascara  $5.99
Next up is the Kiss Everlasting French Manicure, and I honestly did not try these out.  I did like the look of them, and the fact that they were short, but I just don't think that artificial nails are for me.  I like to keep my nails super short, and have a hard time functioning with anything poking out above my fingertip.  I will probably end up passing these on to a friend to try out.  

Kiss Everlasting French Nails  $6.49
This is a peach pie air freshener from the movie Labor Day.  I haven't seen the movie, but I love peach pie, so I immediately put this in my car.  It didn't seem to throw off much scent, and it was kind of large to be dangling from my rearview mirror for an extended period of time, so I took it back down. They can't all be winners.

Tampons...this is an area where I get really picky.  I have a particular brand and type that I am extremely loyal to, but I figured I would try these out and see if I liked them.  I did.  Not enough to make me switch from my usual brand, but enough to purchase them if my regular brand wasn't around.  I don't really know how much you can say about something like tampons.  It is such a  personal  thing, what works best for your needs.  However, these are worth checking out if you are in the market for a new type (and you don't mind that they are lightly scented).  

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance  $3.99-$4.99
I was already a fan of Nivea body lotion products.  I feel that they are very moisturizing and absorb into the skin very well, in general.  This product did not let me down.  I also really liked the faint scent.  However, I cannot vouch for any skin firming properties.  I am not saying it doesn't work, but I didn't notice anything dramatically different about my skin.  It is worth noting that I have read other reviews where people found it very firming, so it is worth trying out.  At the end of the day, even if it isn't as firming as you would like, it is a fantastic moisturizer.

Skin Firming Hydration Body Lotion  $2.49 for 2.5 oz
If you are interested in joining Influenster for your chance to receive your own VoxBox, please let me know.  I have some invites that I would be happy to share with you.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recent Reads: A Real Housewife, A Trilogy, A TV Show & A Mystery

Hello Everyone!  I am back with another edition of my recent reads.  I try to make these as un-spoilery as possible, so you can still enjoy the twists and turns of each book.  This time I have reviewed a trilogy all in one review, in order to give an overview without giving anything away.  I hope this works better than reviewing each separately, which requires a bit more detail.

Leave me a comment to let me know what you are reading.  I am always looking for my next book!

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

The Divergent Trilogy:  Imagine a world where society is divided into groups of people who live by one of five virtues: Candor (honest), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful), and Erudite (intelligent).   Beatrice (Tris) Prior must choose which faction to join once she turns sixteen.  First, she is given a test to see which she most clearly identifies with.  When her results are unclear making her Divergent, she is told she must hide it from the world or risk death.  She picks a faction, and goes through their grueling initiation process.  Throughout the series she learns more about her parent's backstories, what her divergence really means,  and the actual reason the world as she knows it was divided into factions.  She has to make a lot of difficult choices throughout the three books, which makes for a tumultuous relationship with her love interest.  Each book reveals a little more of the truth, until Tris must make one final choice.  I would give the first book (Divergent) 4 stars, Insurgent 3 stars, and Allegiant 2 stars.  I am still not completely sure how I felt about the ending of the series.  If you have read this, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Where'd You Go, Bernadette:  Bernadette Fox has issues.  She doesn't like people and hates leaving her home.  She is married to a genius Microsoft executive, and has a sweet and smart teenage daughter, Bee.  Bee brings home straight A's on her report card, and as a promised reward for her achievements, she wants the family to take a vacation around Antarctica.  Bernedette reluctantly agrees, and hires a virtual assistant in India to help with the planning.  Everything goes downhill from here, leading her husband to misunderstand her, her neighbors to loathe her, and the FBI to investigate her.  Needless to say, hilarity ensues. 

 A few days before the family is supposed to leave on their trip, Bernadette disappears.  Bee pieces together her mother's disappearance through emails, notes, and letters.  This book is a satire, touching and funny, and really well written.  I would give this one five stars overall.

Orange Is The New Black
Orange is the New Black:  Piper Kerman is going to prison ten years after she committed her crime, delivering a suitcase full of drug money.  She is no longer the wild child she was back then, and lives a model life in Manhattan with her fiance.  She is eventually sentenced to 15 months in the Danbury, CT Federal Correctional Institution.  Here she meets women from all walks of life, each there for different reasons.  She learns how to navigate the world of prison and survive the loneliness and isolation from her friends and family.  She makes some unlikely friendships and learns a few new skills (though jobs in the electrical shop and in construction).  Throughout her story, you are led to think about the purpose that prison serves, who we are imprisoning, and what we are doing to rehabilitate the people we send there.  She paints a very vivid picture of her time served, and you root for Piper and her finance to get through this.  I would give this book 5 stars, and say it is definitely worth picking up.  Now to start watching the Neflix series.

Drinking and Tweeting
Drinking and Tweeting:  I love the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Brandi Glanville is my favorite.  She always says what is on her mind, so when I heard she was releasing a book about her life, I was pretty stoked to read it.  Here, she gives you all of the dirty details, what it was like growing up in her family, her modeling career, marrying Eddie Cibrian, through the the breakup of their marriage due to his affair with LeAnn Rimes, and becoming selected to star on The Real Housewives.  It was a juicy read, and nothing is held back.  There is something so honest and unfiltered here, it is hard to put down.  Brandy not only calls out the people in her life that have crossed her in some way, she is honest about her own faults and things she needs to work on.  If you are a fan of the show, or followed her divorce scandal, you will enjoy this book.  I'd give it three stars overall.  I will probably pick up her new book, Drinking and Dating some time in the near future.  

See my Books page to keep up with the books I am currently reading.  

Check out my books on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31653089-erin

Monday, June 2, 2014

#100HappyDays Update

I have been participating in the #100happydays challenge.  Simply put, I am documenting one thing that brings joy to my life daily, for 100 straight days.  Today is day 61, and so far, I am loving this.  It is fun to look back and see what really makes me happy.  Not surprisingly, a lot of it involves my pets and my garden.  Here are a few of my highlights.  

Opening a very special bottle we brought back from Scotland.

My tiny, sweet Harriet loves to steal the biggest chewie from Meatball.  Always.

The view from a relative's house.  The Bay Area is just so beautiful.  

Has anyone seen Harriet?  Where can she be hiding?

My beautiful delphiniums. 

My first flower arrangements from our garden this year (plus a special guest star).

My snail Blue, giving a ride to a cherry shrimp.

My frog Hazel Grace and her enormous feet.

Two knuckleheads and a laser beam.

Two of my favorite things: frogs and the Raiders (for my garden).

My peonies bloomed, and they were spectacular.

Yoga frog....Om

Harriet and Petunia, young and beautiful 

Dusk from my backyard.  The thrushes were singing and it was an unusually warm evening.  The dogs were chasing the remaining light across the yard.  My husband was making and amazing dinner and stalking EBay.  I could even see a planet.  In that moment, everything was perfect.  

The fact that Petunia sleeps with her paws crossed.

I know this much is true

Follow me @iluvpugz

Let me know if you are participating.  I would love to see your pictures.
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